The bond between art and love is as old as human history. In many different forms artists across time and places have created art inspired by their passion. And through these arts, they have managed to preserve their love forever. But none is grander than the monument of the Taj Mahal. It gets its name from Mumtaj, the wife of Shah Jahan. Coincidently, it also translates to the crown of all monuments.

Shah Jahan was the fifth ruler of the Mughal Dynasty. The actions of his forefathers had left him with a vast and prosperous empire. Shah Jahan also spent more time in his palace than in his fort. This is the reason why he was able to form a distinctive bond of love with his wife Mumtaj. Mumtaj had given Shah Jahan 13 children. During the delivery of their 14th child, Mumtaj died.
Shah Jahan was unable to bear the news of her beloved’s death. He locked himself in his room and mourned for months. Some literary works mention that Shah Jahan looked and felt older from the constant mourning.

After months of mourning, Shah Jahan came out of his depression. New hope and vision had pulled him out of his misery. That vision was to build a marvellous resting place for her lovely wife. And thus the plan to build the Taj Mahal began.

A place near the river Yamuna was chosen as the site of its construction. No one knows why exactly. Some say it is because of the beautiful backdrop of the river Yamuna. Some believe that the river provided easy transport for the giant marble rocks. Whatever the case, the construction of the Taj Mahal started in the year 1632.

The first challenge was to create a steady foundation. The banks of a river are mostly made of sand. They are also prone to moisture in long term. To curb this problem, a foundation fifty meters deep was filled with dirt and wooden logs. Wood’s ability to grow in size when it gets wet was the key to its strength. After the foundation, a 15 km long ramp was cleared out for easy transport of raw materials.

To create something that would be impossible to replicate, Shah Jahan invited artisans from all over Asia. The raw materials too came from all around India. Such a combination of artists and raw materials was never seen before in the world. And it is safe to say it never will. The white marble came from Agra, Crystals from China, and Sapphires from Srilanka. The calligraphers came from Iran, carpenters from Saudi, and painters from Central Asia.

The architectural beauty of the Taj Mahal is not in its marble but in its symmetry. It is a perfectly symmetrical building from all four corners. The symmetry is also on display at the front gate and its gardens. The symmetry of the exterior is only outshone by the beauty of the interior. Giant walls are full of designs with the tiniest of details. Carvings of man or animals are prohibited in Islam hence floral designs dominate the building. Apart from that, holy Islamic scriptures written in Arabic also find their way into the walls of the Taj Mahal.

How long did it take to build the Taj Mahal?

In 1648, 16 years after its construction began, the main building of the Taj Mahal was completed. In another four years, the main gates, the garden, and the enclosure was completed. Twenty thousand people working for 20 years, finally completed the final resting place for Mumtaj. 

Did Shah Jahan really chop off the hands of the workers who built the Taj Mahal?

Against a common myth, Shah Jahan never cut the hands of his worker. He was instead so impressed that he commissioned these workers to build a new city named Shahjahanabad, in his honour.

For centuries it stood tall as the greatest sign of love. Centuries after both Shah Jahan and Mumtaj departed from earth, their bond signs bright on the white marble of the Taj. In modern times, the mausoleum became a tourist attraction. Over 100 million people voted it to be a part of the world’s new seven wonders. And what was meant for Mumtaj’s peaceful burial site, is now India’s most visited place.

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